Better think twice about opening up any casinos

During the recent elections for village chiefs and township representatives, Penghu County also held an unofficial referendum intended to gauge the level of support for the licensing of casinos there. The people who voted in the referendum did so according to individual and local needs, urgently hoping that once the government has heard the voice of the people, it would respond by providing practical assistance in the form of capital and infrastructure.

However, if the people of the outlying islands wish to set up a gaming industry, the government first has to consider how it would go about this.

First, can the government afford to build expensive UFA gaming facilities on the islands — given its financial problems? The many social problems casinos can bring, such as gangster activity, proliferation of the sex industry, difficulty in controlling gambling habits and the influx of outsiders must also be addressed.

Whether the government can come up with an effective policy to tackle these problems — or even whether there will be the money or personnel — are controversial issues that must be resolved before a gaming industry can be established. Research has indicated that some of these problems may be impossible to eliminate and that the only recourse is to mitigate them. But how to mitigate them is a problem in itself.

In allocating resources, the first priority should be transportation. Temporarily putting aside the issue of whether large-scale airplanes can land at Makung’s airport, Penghu lacks an international access point. Without any direct air links, foreign visitors must first go to Chiang Kai-shek International Airport, then go to the Sungshan airport and take a flight to Penghu. This is a complete turn-off for foreign tourists, and Penghu would not be able to compete with regional competitors such as Macau, Phuket and …